PMQs: Starmer demands action on ‘haunting’ coronavirus death toll as Johnson says international comparisons must wait

PUBLISHED: 12:39 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:39 10 June 2020

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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Boris Johnson has been challenged to explain why the UK has one of the highest death tolls from the coronavirus globally with the Labour leader calling it “haunting” in the latest round of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

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Keir Starmer speak at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.Keir Starmer speak at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

In the second round of PMQs since parliament reintroduced social distancing measures, Sir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson went head-to-head over the rising number of coronavirus deaths.

Sir Keir asked the prime minister: “Mr Speaker, I want to turn to the overall numbers of those who have tragically died fro Covid-19 because those overall numbers haunt us.

“Since last PMQs, the government’s daily total figures of those who have died from coronavirus has gone past 40,000. The ONS [Office for National Statistics] figures, which records cases where coronavirus is on the death certificate, stands at just over 50,000 and the number of excess deaths, which is an awful phrase, stands at over 63,000.

“These are amongst the highest numbers in the world. Last week, the prime minister said he was proud of the government’s record but there’s no pride in those figures, is there?”

Johnson rebutted saying his government took each death seriously but urged caution when analysing the death rate.

“We must wait until the epidemic has been through its whole cycle in order to draw the relevant international comparisons,” he said.

Johnson went on to praise the “astonishing” efforts made to build NHS Nightingale and the obedience of social distancing rules.

“We have a plan, we’re following it and we’re going to stick to it,” he added.

Displeased with Johnson’s reply, the Labour leader remarked: “It just doesn’t wash to say that we can’t compare those figures to other countries. Everyone can see those figures and see the disparity and we need to learn from those other countries... we could have learnt lessons.

“There is little solace to the families that have lost someone to be told this is too early to compare and to learn from other countries.”

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